US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will not attend Saudi Arabia’s ‘Future Investment Initiative’

The decision comes as the Trump administration has faced mounting pressure following the disappearance of columnist Jamal Khashoggi

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 18 October 2018 12:53 BST
Mr Mnuchin decided not to attend after meeting with the president and US secretary of State
Mr Mnuchin decided not to attend after meeting with the president and US secretary of State (AFP/Getty)

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United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has announced he will not attend Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative conference next week.

Mr Mnuchin announced his decision on Twitter after a meeting with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday.

"Just met with @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia," Mr Mnuchin tweeted on Thursday.

The Treasury secretary's decision comes as questions persist over the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after visiting the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials have said they have audio and video proving that Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who resides in the United States, was brutally murdered.

The Trump administration had tried to resist calls for Mr Mnuchin to cancel his attendance at the investors conference, even as evidence mounted that Mr Khashoggi is likely dead, and as American business leaders and foreign officials began pulling out of the summit. The Saudi conference is known as "Davos in the Desert" in reference to a similar investor conference held in Switzerland.

Mr Khashoggi is a Saudi dissident who gained US residency last year, citing fears for his safety as reason for needing to live in the United States. He vanished 2 October after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish officials have since claimed that they have evidence proving Mr Khashoggi was beheaded and dismembered within minutes of entering the consulate's compound.

The Saudi government has dismissed claims that Mr Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate as "baseless", but have provided no proof that the dissident left the consulate unharmed.

Mr Trump and his administration have appeared to accept the Saudi government's line, with Mr Pompeo visiting Saudi leadership this week and reporting back that they "strongly denied" knowing anything about what happened to Mr Khashoggi.

"We had direct and candid conversations. I emphasised the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation, and the Saudi leadership pledged to deliver precisely that," Mr Pompeo said after meeting with King Salman and others.

"My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior officials," he continued.

But, while the Trump administration has appeared to accept Saudi Arabia's line on the potential killing, politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington have condemned the actions and have asked for the president to present a stronger front to Saudi Arabia on the issue.

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Meanwhile, Turkey has been conducting its own investigation, and officials have said Mr Khashoggi was cut up after being killed inside of the consulate in Istanbul. But, by the time Turkish investigators were able to access the building where the purported killing occurred, a fresh paint had been applied "everywhere" inside the building, according to officials.

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